30 Jun 2019

Breeding Little terns - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area I came across a few Little Terns some of which had well grown young to feed. Some were resting on the muddy edge of some sabkha and other flying around. In the Eastern Province the Little Tern is a common passage migrant and summer visitor that is scarce in the winter. Care must be taken not to confuse it with the very similar Saunder’s Tern that also occurs in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in the summer and breeds on offshore islands. It has bred in freshwater and brackish areas of eastern Saudi Arabia and possibly the Red Sea also. Birds are scarce inland but have been recorded in all areas including Riyadh. The chance to try to get photos is increased as adults were feeding young and continually flying backwards and forwards with food. The harsh light is a drawback but the best photos I managed are shown below.
Little Tern

Little Tern

Little Tern


Little Tern

Little Tern

Little Tern

Little Tern

28 Jun 2019

Lesser Emperor - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently we came across a Lesser Emperor Anax Parthenopesitting still on a large reed stem. The dragonfly allowed close photos to be take the best of which is shown below. Lesser Emperor has a length of approximately 71mm and has a bright blue ‘saddle’ that is very noticeable. The rest of the abdomen is brownish, as is the thorax. The eyes are green. It is a wide-range Palearctic and Indomalayan species that is not threatened on a global scale, although local declines may occur due to habitat destruction and water pollution. Occurs in much of southern and central Europe including most Mediterranean islands, across Asia to Japan including parts of Arabia, Korean Peninsula and China, and North Africa. In the south of its range it can be on the wing in March but is most commonly seen from June to September. They are most often seen patrolling around ponds, lakes and other still water. This is the second year in succession I have seen the species in Jubail having not seen it previously in other years.
Lesser Emperor

26 Jun 2019

Arabian Spotted Eagle Owl - Tanoumah

Whilst in Tanoumah in May Phil Roberts and I managed to see and photograph an Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl. I initially saw the bird on some overhead wires where it stayed for a few minutes before flying off. I have seen the bird here last year on the same wires. When it flew, it did so only a short distance and landed on a nearby building where it started calling very softly. We got out of the car and moved closer getting to about twenty metres of the bird where I got some very poor IPhone recordings of the call. After about ten minutes the bird flew again and disappeared. We walked down the road the way it had flown and I saw it again perched on some more overhead telephone wires. Here we managed to walk behind large sets of building walls and get in front of the bird allowing reasonable photos to be taken at close range. The owl was not disturbed by our presence, and stayed on the wires the entire time until we left it in peach in the same location. The subspecies in Arabia is an endemic sub-species to southwestern Arabia and although not rare is difficult to locate. Birds are resident near the Red Sea coast north to Jeddah and can be seen in the Tihamah and Asir areas including Najran and Hejaz north to Taif. Other birds have been seen in a wooded wadi eight kilometres east of Wadi Juwwah in April and near Tanoumah at various times of year. The taxonomic status of form milesi, significantly isolated in southwest Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman, is uncertain. It is a rather small eagle-owl with long, erect ear-tufts and with race milesi smaller and more tawny coloured. They use a variety of habitats, from rocky outcrops in desert to woodland with sparse ground cover: particularly favours areas with mosaic of low hills, grassland and scrub; prefers semi-open woodland, and rocky hills with scattered trees and bushes; also found in thorn savanna; avoids dense forest. From sea level up to c. 2100 metres.
Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl

Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl

Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl

Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl

Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl



24 Jun 2019

Solanum incanum – Talea Valley

Whist looking around the Talea Valley in the Asir Mountains, after a huge thunderstorm, hail and heavy rain I came across an erect bushy leaf shurblet 1 metre high and slightly spiny. Some spines are on the mid-rib of the grey-green velvety leaves. Large pale yellow smooth round fruits. It turned out to be a Solanum incanum which is widespread in the Hijaz and Asir mountains.
Solanum incanum

22 Jun 2019

Late migrants – Jubail

Towards the end of May I went to Jubail with an early morning start getting me to the site at first light. There were a good number of migrants around with a couple of Whinchats and plenty of Willow Warblers in the tamarisk bushes. A few Red-backed Shrikes, a Common Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatchers. Apart from Willow Warblers the reeds were alive with the song of Caspian Reed Warblers and Clamorous Reed Warblers. GrOut on the flooded sabkha were plenty of terns and herons a good numbers of Wood Sandpipers.
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Clamorous Reed Warbler

Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover 
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Whinchat
Whinchat
Whinchat
Whinchat 
Whinchat
Whinchat
Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper

20 Jun 2019

Arabian Skittering Frog - Tanoumah

Whilst looking for Owls at night in Tanoumah in the Asir mountains of southwest Saudi Arabia Phil spotted a frog jumping across the road infront of the car. As we had cameras at the ready for any owl sightings we took some flash photographs of the amphibian. The Arabian Skittering Frog or Arabian Five-fingered Frog Euphlyctis ehrenbergii is a species of frog in the Dicroglossidae family found in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It has previously been treated as a subspecies of the Skittering Frog Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis, but is now considered as a valid species. The frog is restricted to areas of permanent and temporary water in the Red Sea coastal region of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It has an altitudinal range from sea level to 2,400 metres above sea level and lays its eggs in water. The species may aestivate during the dry season, meaning it spends the hot or dry period in a prolonged state of torpor or dormancy.
Arabian Skittering Frog

Arabian Skittering Frog

18 Jun 2019

Birding Alheefah Park - Tanoumah

Alheefah Park is normally very popular but as it was Ramadan when we were there, the number of people was much less than normal. The park is right on the escarpment edge and has breathtaking views, and is covered by large juniper trees and acacia scrub. The large trees are good places to see birds and Phil Roberts located a small group of Bruce’s Green Pigeons in good light where I managed to get a few good photos. There are plenty of rocks and hillsides and we heard Phlby’s Partridge calling soon after arriving and eventually located a single bird calling from the top of a rocky hill. As it was getting late and we want to look for owls we did not stay too long at the site with the only other bird photographed a male Palestine Sunbird.
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Palestine Sunbird
Palestine Sunbird
Philby's Partridge
Philby's Partridge


16 Jun 2019

Desert Locust – Billasimer

Whilst birding a deep woodland valley near Billasimer I flushed a Desert Locust Schistocerca gregariasituation off the main track and onto a dry stone wall, where it was well camouflaged. The Desert Locust can form plagues and threaten agricultural production in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, something it has done for centuries. The desert locust is potentially the most dangerous of the locust pests because of the ability of it to form swarms and to fly rapidly across great distances. There has not, however, been any large swarms I know of in recent years.


14 Jun 2019

Crested Honey Buzzard in Alheefah Park - Tanoumah

We went to look for Eurasian Griffon Vultures at the lookout point in Alheefah Park and were rewarded with a female Crested Honey Buzzard that flew along the escarpment before disappearing. The species has only been seen five times previously in the summer in the Kingdom but this record being mid-may could be a late spring bird. Last summer we saw an adult female flying just overhead in the Bani Saad area and another adult female at some distance at the bottom of Wadi Wadj in Taif. An adult Male was at Dhahran 5th & 6th May to 30 July 2011 with two second calendar year birds 5 July 2014 in Dhahran. A second calendar year was at Tanoumah 5 July 2013. These new records mean that birds have been seen along most of the Asir mountain range in summer and show a few birds may regularly summer there. As most birds seem to be females there is a chance birds could be breeding in the area?
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard
Crested Honey Buzzard


12 Jun 2019

Woodland birding - Billasimer

The tall woodland around Billasimer looked good for birdwatching and as neither Phil or I had birded the area we spent both our available mornings at the location. There are plenty of good looking sites and a few nice tracks that may hold nightjars (Plain and Montane), for which we will look next time in the area. We found a couple of very deep valleys with Philby’s Partidge calling regularly but the birds stayed hidden in the woods and did not fly as normal, so we failed to even see them. Arabian Babblers were common along the edge of the valley and Red-breasted Wheatear were seen on the way into the location. Other birds seen and photographed were Little Rock Thrush, Yemen Thrush and Abyssinian White-eye. Brown Woodland Warbler was common and plenty of Dusky Turtle Doves were seen with a couple of Arabian Magpie as calling and flying up and down the valley.
Abyssinian White-eye
Abyssinian White-eye
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Little Rock Thrush
Little Rock Thrush
Yemen Thrush
Yemen Thrush

10 Jun 2019

Diederick Cuckoo in Alheefah Park - Tanoumah

On arrival at Alheefah Park I head a Diederik Cuckoo calling and after some searching, we saw the bird in the top of a tall tree. Unfortunately, it flew almost immediately but landed again in a better-positioned tree for photography. This is normally a very difficult species to get good photos off, so the ones below were very pleasing. The bird stayed calling in the same location for ten to fifteen minutes before we left it in peace. The Diderick Cuckoo is a summer visitor to southwest Saudi Arabia where it parasitizes Rüppell's weaver. They were previously regarded as vagrants to the area, but recently birds have been seen near Tendaha dam 5 July 2010, Abha area 20 July 2010, As Sudah 5 July 2013, Wadi Jaw June 2015, Taif area July 2015, Al Mehfar Park area of Tanoumah June 2016, Quaraish June 2018 and An Namas June 2018. Now I know the call well I seem to see them every trip to the Asir Mountains in summer, so they are presumably an uncommon summer breeder.
Diederik Cuckoo

Diederik Cuckoo

Diederik Cuckoo

Diederik Cuckoo



8 Jun 2019

Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard - Quraish

Whilst birding recently in the Tanoumah area I came across a Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard Acanthodactylus opheodurus down a tree filled wadi. The lizards were very active even during the hottest part of the day and where always found near small low-lying plants with hard sandy soil. It is superficially similar to its larger congener Acanthodactylus boskianus, and was described officially in 1980. As its name suggests, this species has a particularly long tail and, in common with other Acanthodactylus species, the toes are fringed with scales adapted for running over loose sand. Like other lacertids, the body is long and cylindrical, and the legs are well developed, with the animal having a basic body colour of grey, with seven dark stripes running down the back and sides and a tail tinged red in immatures. They live in a range of arid habitats, including plains with relatively hard sand cover and low hills covered by dense bushes. It is a diurnal lizard and lives in burrows excavated out of hard sand where it remains concealed for all but a few hours of the day. Their burrows not only act as a shelter from predators but also provide refuge from extreme temperatures. The snake-tailed fringe-toed lizard is currently known from the Arabian Peninsula and several other countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Kuwait and Iraq.
Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard - Acanthodactylus opheodurus


6 Jun 2019

Arabian Magpie - Billasimer

The Arabian Magpie is the only truly endemic species in Saudi Arabia, meaning it is found in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and nowhere else in the world. It has a very restricted range (An Namas to Billasimer) and very low number of birds and should probably be classified as Critically Endangered on Red Data list rather than its current Endangered status. We went to the southwest mountains in the hope of locating birds as now the species is breeding or feeding newly fledged young so is easier to find. We saw ten different birds at various locations and got some amazing views of a couple of them. Trying to photograph the species is difficult, as they are nervous and stay in valleys with steep sides, moving up the hillside quickly when disturbed. This trip we were lucky to see two birds close to the roadside and as we were in the car the birds were not afraid. One came down and fed on a roadside verge allowing some good photos to be taken. We returned the next day and had a similar experience allowing even better photos as the light was better. Surprisingly, although the birds called a few times they remained mainly silent. Normally they call loudly to each other regularly.
Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie